Before the days of internet and social networking, musicians had it hard. To be a commercial musician, people had to go outside and meet people who would listen to and promote their music. Sounds hard, doesn’t it? That’s no longer the case in the 21st century. With the development of social networking, musicians have all the tools they need to distribute and promote music in their own homes. Facebook and Twitter have been fantastic mediums to share and discuss music, and YouTube is used constantly to listen to music and watch music videos. However, as a musician I am ashamed to say that I have never used the oh-so-popular SoundCloud.
Now, for those who are still living in the 20th century and have never heard of SoundCloud, it is a site where people can record, upload and promote their music online. The site launched in 2007 and the founders intended it to be a platform where musicians could share their music with each other. However, as the site developed it transformed into a full-blown publishing tool that also allowed for musicians to distribute their music. Members of the site are able to stream music online and download some of their favourite tracks. As of today, the site is used by over ten million people and last year, they released amazing statistics claiming that 90% of tracks that get uploaded to the site are listened to at least once.
As a person who had never used Soundcloud before, I wished to become more familiar with the features of the site to better understand why SoundCloud is the leading name for music distribution online. So I signed up. What initially struck me was how simple the site was to use. It was self-explanatory and I truly felt that even non-technically-minded folk would find it relatively straightforward. The interface itself was also visually appealing and not overly busy, thus making it more readable.
SoundCloud offers three subscription levels; Free, Pro or Pro Unlimited. The difference between the subscriptions is based on the minute limit of uploaded audio. The free account has a limit of 120 minutes of uploaded music which is a reasonable amount for most amateur musician’s needs. Uploading tracks is simple and offers two ways to in which to upload music; from a home computer or laptop, or through the SoundCloud app on a smartphone. After uploading a track, there is opportunity to enclose the track’s title, add a description and label the track with tags to make the record more assessable to the site’s populace.
The aspect of SoundCloud that makes the site is its sense of community. Being able to download tracks and share them on other social networking sites is perhaps the key feature that has made the website so successful. The most useful sharing tool is the embed code for each track. Simply copy and paste the HTML code into a post and a mini player will appear on your social networking site. Another useful feature for music distribution is the use of widgets. By placing a widget on a social networking site or blog, any music that is uploaded onto your SoundCloud account will be automatically loaded to their social networking site, making it more assessable to their fans and followers. Social networking sites that run alongside SoundCloud include: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr and Pintrest.
Not only does SoundCloud provide an excellent distribution service but it is also used a medium to discover new music. Through the ‘explore’ function, you can discover what tracks are popular and ‘trending’ on the site, as well being able to search for songs through a multitude of genres. With the Free account, the site allows an unlimited amount of listen time to all of the tracks on the website but is limited to 100 minutes of downloaded music.
One of my favourite functions of the site is that you are able to follow your favourite users, which gives the site a social-network community feeling. Of course, SoundCloud is not going to be the sole factor that launches a new musician into the stratosphere. However, it is a fantastic site to start building an initial fan base and if you want to get your music out into the world, I would highly recommend SoundCloud.